Video game manufacturer 2kSports announced this week that it will include 14 of Europe’s top professional basketball teams in NBA2k14, the latest edition of its NBA-themed video game series. The addition of the Euroleague teams fills a void left by the absence of EA Sports’ NBA game, which used to include European teams but hasn’t been in production since 2012.
Gamers seem to like the decision, even if some commenters on gaming web sites were disappointed that the Euroleague teams would only be available in exhibition play, not for use in career modes. And they should, since it’s a cool feature that was obviously received well when EA Sports did it the first time around. But if 2kSports thinks the Euroleague, which can obviously expand its audience, is worthy of inclusion, I wonder why it doesn’t feel the same about adding the WNBA to its package as well.
NBA Live, after all, included the option to play as more than a dozen WNBA players in its 2009 version, and EA has moved toward including women in more of its sports games. Tiger Woods PGA Tour has included female golfers for years and will, for the first time, give players the option of playing on the LPGA Tour in its 2014 version. EA’s National Hockey League game added women’s players in 2013, and EA has said that it is “inevitable” that it will add women to its FIFA series of soccer games, even if they still aren’t included in the 2014 game that comes out in September. EA is bringing back its NBA series in 2014, but to my knowledge it hasn’t said if it will include WNBA players in it.
This all strikes me as a major missed opportunity for manufacturers of sports video games. As my colleague Alyssa Rosenberg has written, women make up nearly half of all American gamers and an equal proportion of frequent video game purchasers. And yet there’s a serious dearth of women video game characters, and maybe nowhere is that more evident than in the games marketed to sports fans. With the exception of the new Tiger Woods game, even the major titles that include female players don’t actually include women’s leagues or competitions.
Women are playing sports and buying sports tickets and merchandise, and they’re playing and buying sports video games. Obviously the WNBA isn’t as popular as the NBA, so making a game solely devoted to the WNBA probably wouldn’t make sense. But EA used to include select women’s teams in its college basketball titles and I don’t see any reason why the women’s league couldn’t fit into an NBA title. Beyond that, women and young girls who are attracted to sports deserve to see themselves on screen and have the same realistic gameplay experiences as men. And both men and women deserve the opportunity to play with basketball’s biggest stars of both genders — not just one or the other.